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How to find missing historical documents

Mark Simpson of BBC Northern Ireland called me last night to ask for my reaction to the distressing news that the 1926 census has been mislaid. I didn't come up with any quoteworthy lines at the time, but this morning - after, as it turned out, he had filed the story - my wife and I had a couple of thoughts which I sent to him and which he was kind enough to include in the radio coverage of the story. The funnier of the two thoughts is actually not mine, but Anne's.

(I'll be in Belfast on Thursday to launch the expanded elections site.)

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
steepholm
Jun. 11th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
Cool!
ceemage
Jun. 11th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
Any reason why the NI censuses were out of sync with the GB ones? I would have thought that, in principle, a UK-wode census would have made sense, to pick up a complete snapshot as at one point in time?
nwhyte
Jun. 12th, 2013 09:02 am (UTC)
1926 was an exception; it was impossible to carry out a census in either aprt of Ireland in 1921 due to the war going on at the time. But both parts of Ireland held the census on the same day in 1926. After that the Free State / Republic shifted to a five-yearly cycle, and Norn Iron synchronised with GB.
ceemage
Jun. 12th, 2013 10:32 am (UTC)
Fully understand that everyone on the island of Ireland was, shall we say, otherwise engaged in 1921. But interesting that I implicitly assumed that a GB-NI synchronised census was more important than a RoI/NI one. Clearly I am a "closet Unionist." Which, based on the discussion on Slugger O'Toole, qualifies me to join APNI. So no bad thing there...
(Anonymous)
Jun. 11th, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
How is it even possible for stuff like this to go missing seeing as they are mostly preserved for posterity.

So what's new about the elections website? I noticed once you had a list of parties with their various degrees of existance described. I wouldn't mind something similar for now as I can't keep up with the number of unionist parties at the minute. The new NI21 party have said they will stand in the euros next year. Given that they will likely be joined by a DUP, UUP, TUV and UKIP candidates as well as possible tory (Nicholson is theirs too after all), PUP and even BNP candidates.
makyo
Jun. 12th, 2013 07:21 am (UTC)
How is it even possible for stuff like this to go missing seeing as they are mostly preserved for posterity.
Sometimes bad things happen to the building they're stored in. Many (about 60%) of the records pertaining to ordinary British soldiers during WW1 were destroyed or irretrievably damaged during WW2: they were stored in a building owned by the War Office that got hit by an incendiary bomb in 1940. The surviving documents and fragments were subsequently transferred to microfilm and are now housed at the National Archives in Kew, where they're designated WO363 (but commonly referred to as "the burnt documents"). There's an example here (the call-up papers for one of my great uncles) where you can see how badly singed even the surviving files got.
dougs
Jun. 12th, 2013 09:12 am (UTC)
I'm reminded of an episode of "Yes Minister", where it emerges that some junior civil servant or other may have committed a certain indiscretion in the distant past, but the records of it have been lost. Sir Humphrey is cataloguing to Jim some of the incidents which can lead to documents being lost, leading to the following exchange:

HA: "... some were lost during the floods of 1963 ..."
JH: "Was 1963 a particularly bad year?"
HA: "On the contrary, it was a particularly good year -- we lost no end of embarrassing documents."
manjushra
Jun. 12th, 2013 06:33 am (UTC)
cupboard under stairs
In our house there is a man who lives in the cupboard under the stairs. We never see him, but he creeps out at night sometimes and eats leftover slices of cheesecake. He also hides various things, such as census documents and odd gloves. However, he gives us Christmas presents and looks after the gas meter.
manjushra
Jun. 12th, 2013 11:09 am (UTC)
Re: cupboard under stairs
I am perversely proud to have submitted the silliest comment to this profoundly serious entry.
artw
Jun. 12th, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
Re: cupboard under stairs
I (also) want to see your drawings of motorbikes.
According to Virginia Woolf you are thereby contributing to the reincarnation of Shakespeare's genius sister. I think. I may have to check that.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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